What are Bunions?
A bunion—also called Hallux Valgus—is a bump that appears inside the foot, around the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint (near the big toe). This bump is actually a bone protruding towards the inside of the foot. Left untreated, bunions can cause severe pain and even hinder walking abilities.
Bunions are a common problem many women deal with, but men develop them too. Genetics play a large role in the development of bunions, however, wearing ill-fitting shoes can contribute to their formation as well.
Types of Bunions
Bunions typically develop when the weight of your body falls unevenly on the joints and tendons in your feet. This is often due to ill-fitting shoes or genetic deformities. The most common types of bunions include:
- Bunion (Hallux valgus): A bunion is actually a result of the 1st MTP joint being misaligned. The 1st MT starts to move toward the midline of the body and the big toe moves toward the 2nd toe. This deformity is slowly progressive with time. Bunions are classified as mild, moderate or severe, and any class can cause pain.
- Tailors bunion: Also called a bunionette, Tailors bunions occur when the fifth metatarsal bone (smallest toe) starts to expand outward, forming a bony growth near the little toe.
- Adolescent bunion: Teenagers may develop a bunion at the base of his or her big toe. This bunion may cause pain and can get worse over time without treatment.
How is a Bunion Treated?
If left untreated, bunions can become so painful that you might end up walking differently just to relieve the pressure. Because the MTP joint helps bear and distribute bodyweight while standing, bunions can seriously affect the ability of the foot to function properly.
To treat bunions, your healthcare provider will begin with conservative methods designed to relieve pressure and restore function. The most common conservative approaches to alleviating bunions include:
- Shoe choice: Choose shoes with wide insteps, broad toes and soft soles and avoid shoes that are narrow, tight, or sharply pointed.
- Custom orthotics: In order to relieve pressure from the affected areas and slow down the progression, your doctor may recommend custom shoe inserts.
- Forefoot products: Products like a bunion shield, night splint or bunion bandages may be prescribed to help with the pain from the bunion.